As widely adored as the original soundtrack to Final Fantasy VI is, its orchestral arranged album "Final Fantasy VI Grand Finale" might be to the same degree contentious. Some love it for its artistically accomplished, classically styled arrangements, some hate it - or at least are disappointed with it - for the liberties it takes from the original. My own feelings are firmly an equal mixture of both - the arrangements and performances are from an artistic standpoint very impressive, yet some of the deviations from the OST can be maddening.
There's nothing contentious about "Opening Theme ~ Terra" at least. Taking the already dramatic theme from the original soundtrack, the orchestral rendition here accomplishes perfectly what a great arrangement can do - bolster the instrumentation with a high-quality live performance and expand upon the theme with new material, all while staying true to the spirit of the original. The orchestra sounds fantastic, and the minute or two of newly composed material makes even clearer the imagery of a forlorn soldier marching through snow as the opening credits roll.
About half of the remaining arrangements similarly keep to the spirit of the original versions, while letting the orchestra work its innate magic. "The Mystic Forest" sounds gorgeous (far superior to the much plainer arrangement in recent FF orchestral albums), and the town theme "Kids Run Through The City Corner" is very pretty as well; both have minute-long original intros that nicely expand upon the originals. "Kefka" has more substantial changes, but as a crazed circus march still fairly closely resembles the original. And though the opera has been arranged more extensively and energetically in later albums (most memorably in Orchestral Game Concert 4), the vocal performance in "Aria di Mezzo Carattere" may still be the best of the lot.
The other half of the album has changes that will be hard for all but the most opening-minded FFVI fans to accept. "Gau" is a nicely done arrangement, but in losing the original's lead cello in favor of baroque violins and harpsichord, it also loses of huge amount of the original's poignancy. "Mystery Train" is another admirable artistic effort, but the arrangement's frantic violin-piano duo completely foregoes the spooky charm of the original. The most perplexing and infamous change, however, comes in "Relm", in which blaring lead bagpipes ruin what is otherwise an absolutely perfect, beautiful arrangement of the tender theme.
Despite some questionable departures in style from the original soundtrack, you have to credit the arrangers for having artistic vision when embellishing these compositions. It's by far the most classical of the Square-produced Final Fantasy arranged albums, and people who can appreciate that aspect I'm sure will enjoy it. Yet for every track that amplifies the narrative and dramatic qualities of the original themes, there's another that seems to disregard them altogether. The results are too mixed to consider the album an ideal Final Fantasy VI orchestral collection, but it's still an admirable artistic effort that fulfills its potential often enough to make it worth consideration.